The recent terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and UK, to mention just those happening in Europe, together with the rise in incidents of hate-speech, propaganda and violent xenophobia in Europe show an urgent need for contributions from all sectors in society, including the youth sector, to fight violent radicalisation. While violent radicalisation needs to be confronted and taught on a number of fronts, it is important, that the threats and dangers that it poses for young people are recognised, prevented and acted upon by early and effective intervention measures, respecting young people´s cultural diversity.

The process of identity development can be influenced by many factors, such as family background, peers, internet and social media, political environment and the position of groups of young family in society often confronted with discrimination, humiliation, exclusion, injustice, a lack of prospects, feelings of frustration, which could lead to violent radicalisation.

Parents, siblings, peers and other relevant actors are crucial in supporting a positive development of identity. This can include intercultural awareness and respects for others, active participation in society, but also aspects of spirituality, religion or belief, and involves strengthening the sense of belonging necessary to counterbalance the information and extremist ideas young people may exposed to. Young people should be encouraged to engage in self-reflection, develop empathy, learn critical thinking, how to live with challenges and uncertainties and how to deal with situations and emotions that cause them discomfort, thus becoming more resilient and maintain constructive relations across social groups.

Young people must have awareness and understanding of democracy, equality, respect for human dignity, human rights, pluralism and diversity, and be skilled in media and information literacy. This contributes to critical thinking, an awareness of and knowledge about how information can be based and exploited by violent extremist groups in order to spread propaganda.

Youth work is an accessible and outreaching service, method and tool aiming for the positive identity development of all young people, providing a non-formal and informal environment for the development of values, skills, competences, talents and open attitudes, which also enables them to recognise and manage the risks they are likely to encounter, including violent radicalisation. Youth work uses a broad and holistic approach, involves young people actively and works together with individuals and groups of young people to find solutions to their questions and problems. In this way youth work offers a save environment to grow, build an identity, feel a sense of belonging and be explored to positive peer influences and could prevent negative peer pressure leading to violent radicalization.

Article by Johanna Grießer


Our member movement, YMDRAB-Bulgaria, is running a great project in line with our annual topic on 2017: radicalization and extremism. Their project “People to people – social interaction between Christian ad Muslim rural youngsters” brought together young people from two different religious groups to explore the different realities they face in the rural areas of Bulgaria.



This is a youth project of MIJARC’s member movement YMDRAB Bulgaria. Its main aim is to initiate a social dialogue and to develop intercultural sensitivity between Bulgarian Muslim and Christian rural youngsters. The project took place from 3rd to 10th September 2017 and brought together 12 Christian youngsters (from village of Litakovo situated in the Northwestern part of Bulgaria) and 12 Muslim youngsters (from Zhaltusha village situated in the Southeastern part of the country) in a neutral place (in Kranevo village at the Black Sea cost in the Northeastern part of Bulgaria).

SAM_4020The main project activity was an one week collaboration event between the participants. They were accompanied by a coherently built team of trainers and experts, coming from YMDRAB and their partners in the project (Ardino Municipality, Botevgrad Municipality and The National Youth Forum of Bulgaria). Their collaborative work was entirely based on non-formal education, including: presentations, mixed working groups, role plays, group discussions, field visits and others.

SAM_2942During the event the participants shared and analysed the realities of the Christian and Muslim youngsters in the Bulgarian rural areas and identified the challenges and opportunities to develop more cohesive multicultural and multi religious villages. They had the chance to break mutual stereotypes and prejudices and to develop awareness on concepts such as identity, culture, intercultural sensitivity and human rights (including gender equalities). The experts increased participants’ understanding of the local context (including institutions, authorities, relevant programmes, legislation, ect.), which can facilitate their access to social rights. And finally the participants were able to reflect and identify a set of actions for overcoming the mutual exclusion and for increasing the interaction between Christian and Muslim rural youngsters at local level.

SAM_2932As a result of the collaborative work, at the end of the event a Position paper was developed outlining the results of the project. This document contains the common vision of participants how to encourage the social dialogue and interaction between Bulgarian Christian and Muslim rural youngsters. In parallel to that, two Action groups were established in the local communities of the participants, which will act as a moving force or implementation of effective follow-up activities.

SAM_4114Besides the busy agenda, the participants found time for entertainment – there were various thematic evenings and funny activities on the beach. They also had a trip to Varna which is the European Youth Capital in 2017 and visited an outdoor open library created by local Christian and Muslim young volunteers. All of this inspired them for follow up actions and future cooperation.

This activity is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. A unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for & by young people.

As the second international activity of the work plan, the seminar built on the results of the study visit and the expertise of the people who attended the visit. Three of the participants who attended the study visit were part of the team who prepared the seminar and facilitated the work sessions.

 The aim of the seminar was to build participants’ resilience to radicalization leading to violent extremism by looking at what makes rural youth particularly vulnerable and by engaging them in a mix of reflection and action.

A group of 33 participants accepted the challenge of ”opening their minds in order to be able to open doors” and created a nice and joyful group who debated a very serious and profound topic: radicalization leading to violent extremism.

BounceThe programme of the seminar included activities that encouraged participants to share facts, stories and their personal opinions. Throughout the seminar the SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology was used. The SEE part included short presentations on the findings of the study visit, while in the JUDGE part, the participants analysed what fueled the process of radicalization, what were the new recruitment and communication techniques and where it was possible to intervene. Field visits and meeting with experts were also included. The ACT part focused on creating a common position on how to build the resilience of young people in rural areas.

Some of the highlights of the seminar are presented below.

World Café – defining the main concepts

Working in three groups, the participants concluded that radicalization can be positive or negative resulting in different outcomes. Radicalization is also being very ambitious and following your own ideas without any compromises. The official definition of the Council of Europe is focused on social and political aspects. Radicalization is according to the participants also not the opposite of open mindedness.

Workshop of hate speech and extremism

The conclusions was that for individuals it is easier to use hate speech online because they benefit from being anonymous.However, hate speech is used in the offline media all the time, mostly because people are not reacting to it anymore. The discussion also led to the idea that religion is not the cause of extremism but it is just a tool that, when finding the proper context, can lead to extremist behaviors. Finally, one interesting campaign which started in Germany was discussed. The campaign is called #hatehelps. It works like this: when you find a hate speech comment you can post this hashtag and an NGO will find it and write in the comments that they will donate 1 Euro to an NGO of their choice.

Panel discussion with experts – “Religion: a tool of love or a tool of hate?”

A panel discussion with two experts, Umut Cengil (Union of Young Alevis in Germany) and Simon Linder (Union of Young Catholic Youth Movements) took place. They discussed about Alevism, a religion born in Turkey, which deals with love, equality and believes that the human is something that is good. Umut explained that he knows of 5 cases of young people from their community to went to Syria to fight  and never returned. Simon drew attention on the fact that there are also many Christian-motivated crimes, not just Muslim-motivated crimes and that no religion in the world promotes hate or crime. The closing remarks showed that the most important thing is education and the second thing is to talk to each other. Education is important and without education it is easier for people to get into extremist ways.

Position Paper

„Living position paper” 

Position Paper

The participants used the method of a living position paper, collecting during the entire week ideas for the position paper which was finished at the end of the seminar and posted on the wall.Before working directly on the text of the position paper, a fishbowl discussion with 7 people took place to stress again which points were the most important ones. The draft version of the Position Paper can be read here. The Paper will be officially adopted next year.

This activity is part of MIJARC Europe’s annual work plan which is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. A unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for & by young people. The activity was also co-financed by KLJB-Germany.

The study visit was the first activity of the work plan and its main results was the creation of a group of 9 multipliers from 9 different countries who acquired the competencies to plan, implement and evaluate quality learning events for young people from rural areas on the topic of preventing radicalisation leading to violent extremism.

DateThe visit took place between 8th and 11th May and it included no less than 7 meetings with different institutions and experts in the field of extremism and radicalization. On the first day the participants had a Skype meeting with Mr. Menno Ettema- the European coordinator of the No Hate Speech Movement, which resulted in a better understanding of the campaign and how to become active nationally and locally, what tools CoE proposes for raising awareness online about hate speech, the importance of source criticism, and the protection of human rights online. The evening session gave the floor to the participants, as they presented the findings of their small scale research, highlighting what extremism means in their own local realities and also if they or their organization had any experience working with the topic before.

Study visit (1)The second day included three visits: a meeting with the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a meeting with MEP Mr. Ivan Jakovcic from Croatia and a meeting with the European Youth Forum (YFJ). At the end of the day, the participants were invited to share their thoughts and evaluate the day. They reported feeling a high distance between the local levels and the EU level, not feeling very connected to the work at European level, they discovered that some politicians had no idea about rural youth and the overall impression was that nobody seems to fight the causes of extremism but only the consequences.

The third day took the participants to a meeting with the City Council of Molenbeek, a visit to the Belgian Federal Public Service Home Affairs General Directorate Security & Prevention who implemented the Bounce project and a meeting with the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN).  The wrap-up session for the day was arranged as an open discussion.

Study visit (2)The last day of the study visit was the day of summarizing and setting next steps for moving forward. The participants learned how to facilitate in a multicultural group and then were split in groups to prepare the seminar: one group worked on the content and planning of the international seminar while the other group focused on tools and learning outcomes for future trainings and local work. The last session focused on analysing the learning objectives and the extent to which they had been achieved and on evaluating the study visit as a whole.

The idea of a study visit was well received by our member movements who actually felt that this is the kind of activity that makes it worth being part of a network. They appreciated the opportunity to visit European organisations and institutions as well as local authorities in Brussels, because it was something that they could not have planned on their own. The visit succeeded in giving participants valuable access points in European organisations and international NGOs and in presenting research and examples for combating radical propaganda and forms of hatred based on intolerance online and offline. Finally, three of the participants joined the team who prepared the next phase of the workplan and all of them took back the experience and the knowledge in their local movements.

The study visit was part of our annual work plan “Radically against extremism” which is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. A unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for & by young people. The plan is also co-financed by  Renovabis.

Workplan_1In 2017 MIJARC Europe is running an annual Work Plan on the topics of radicalisation and extremism. The main aim of the work plan is to reach out to young women and men living in rural areas in Europe and support them in resisting and countering radicalisation and violent extremism.

This annual work plan will include a series of three activities which are interconnected and build on each other:

Workplan_21. “Visiting at the speed of radicalisation” a study visit in Brussels for a group of 12 young people. The aim of the visit is to create a group of multipliers that will be the Think Tank preparing and facilitating the next activity, the seminar. The idea is for the participants to have meetings with representatives of European institutions involved in the prevention of and fight against radicalisation of young people, encounters with experts on the topic of social inclusion and extremism and with European and international NGOs who run projects in the field. This activity will set the context for having a unified and prepared team able to run a quality seminar but it will also contribute to building the capacity of our member movements. It will give participants the chance to develop competencies that reduce their vulnerability to extremist views and at the same time it will motivate them to invest their energy in addressing these issues in their organisations and communities.

Workplan_32. “Open Minds, Open Doors”an international seminar prepared and facilitated by the people who attended the study visit which will be built on the knowledge and skills acquired during the first phase. The seminar will be centered on the issue of vulnerability of rural young people to radicalisation, focusing on sharing the realities of each country, on the exchange of opinions and on concrete solutions at local level. The seminar will use the traditional MIJARC Europe methodology of “See-Judge-Act” looking first at the contextual, personal and ideological factors that increase the vulnerability to radicalization of young people living in rural areas, then analyzing which of these factors have the greatest influence and finally deciding what measures to take and what tools to use in order to increase their resilience. The seminar serves to enable the critical thinking of participants and the reinforcement of our shared values. It helps participants develop competencies that reduce their vulnerability and it motivates them to take all these to the next level to inform and inspire others.Workplan_4

3. “Think European, share locally” – local round tables gathering rural NGOs, representatives of local public authorities and young people in order to present the results of the international activities and use the position paper as a starting point in analysing and re-discussing the local strategy on preventing radicalisation, fighting extremist attitudes and building resilience.

Our annual work plan in 2017 is implemented with the financial support of the Council of Europe through the European Youth Foundation.